Rangers fight for chance at playoffs

Smithson Valley plays their final district game.

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Rangers fight for chance at playoffs

The Rangers burst onto the field as they play East Central, who are also fighting for a playoff spot.

The Rangers burst onto the field as they play East Central, who are also fighting for a playoff spot.

Danielle Esperiqueta

The Rangers burst onto the field as they play East Central, who are also fighting for a playoff spot.

Danielle Esperiqueta

Danielle Esperiqueta

The Rangers burst onto the field as they play East Central, who are also fighting for a playoff spot.

Emma Siebold, Staff Writer

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The stadium lights blare down on Smithson Valley’s football field for the last time in 2019. With the playoffs in their sights, the Rangers are slated to face one last team on their home turf.

The New Braunfels Unicorns (5-4, 2-4) are, like the Rangers, offensively balanced. Both teams have talented receivers, solid quarterbacks, and a good running game. The line of delineation will be the defense. 

Smithson Valley has allowed 107 points throughout district play, thanks to a talented corps of linebackers and defensive backs. New Braunfels, on the other hand, has allowed a whopping 171 points against those same opponents.

The Unicorns’ best receiver, sophomore Ryker Purdy, is vaguely reminiscent of Ranger wide receiver Greg Eggleston in terms of deployment and production. Purdy, who sees plenty of snaps out of the backfield, has 817 total yards for 12 touchdowns on 93 rushes (7.23 yards per attempt) and 12 receptions (12 yards per attempt). Eggleston has an equal 12 touchdowns, but superior statistics in terms of total yards (1,422) and yards per touch (12.05), giving the Ranger offense a boost over the Unicorns. 

After taking two losses, the Rangers finally won, in their game against  San Marcos on Nov. 1. Coach Larry Hill says this major shift in the team’s play was caused by an explosive start.

“We scored the first four times we had the ball,” said Hill. “While that didn’t end the game, that certainly put them in a catch-up position.” 

Though New Braunfels’ defense is struggling to stay afloat, their skill position players are capable of putting up a fight against Smithson Valley. Purdy’s 12 touchdowns pair nicely with RB Aaron Seidel’s 20.1 yards per carry average, an absolutely absurd figure.

“Well, we got our hands full,” Hill said of the Unicorns’ strong offense. “They are very well balanced on distributing the ball to a lot of playmakers. They’re not building it all around one thing or one person. They do it all very well, so our defense has got their work cut out for them. We’ve gotta go in realizing that we can’t stop everything, we’ve got to stop the major things.”

This game is the deciding factor in whether or not the Rangers will play another. As long as they win, Smithson Valley will get their shot at postseason glory.

Here’s the gist: If the Rangers beat New Braunfels, they make the playoffs. On Friday, Nov. 8,  East Central (fifth in district) plays Steele (third). Because Smithson Valley won head-to-head, they hold the tiebreaker, and thus control their own destiny. The only way they miss out on another week of football is a loss and an East Central win.

The Rangers hold their fate in the palms of their hands. The seniors on the team, who could potentially be playing the last football game of their lives, have every reason to survive senior night. If their efforts prevail, the Rangers will see another day, fighting for a state title.

PREDICTION: Smithson Valley 32, New Braunfels 24

TICKET INFORMATION:

Tickets will be sold at the Fieldhouse on Thursday from 8 AM to 4 PM, and on Friday from 8 AM to 1 PM. Adult tickets cost $7 and student tickets cost $3. Tickets at the gate are $8, and reserve seats are $10. Tickets are also available here.

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